What is hotel marketing & why is it so important?
Why is hotel marketing important?
Strategies, websites, emails, photography, social media, paid ads, SEO, content marketing, branding… crafting a complete marketing strategy for your hotel, motel, resort or property can feel like solving a Rubix cube. And in many ways it is.
Branding and advertising are two entirely different things, but to solve the puzzle both have to work in harmony. While this all sounds like a fun game, if you’re not taking your hotel marketing seriously then – quite frankly – you’re leaving money on the table and rooms empty.
Good marketing is about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. In 2020 we have seemingly endless access to data to inform and point our communications where they need to go. We can target potential customers in the dream, discover, decide stages of the travel cycle, moving them through various touchpoints until they book a room.
You may not have the Hollywood-sized budget of Marriott to create narrative-driven short films, but you do need to invest smartly in hotel marketing if you want to create real results and increase in sales and the brand reputation. Read on to discover how to create a solid marketing strategy for your hotel business.
Figure out your brand
Marketing isn’t just about getting eyeballs on Facebook posts or sending emails or making a cute logo. Your brand is the way the business looks, feels, sounds and moves. Your message needs to remain consistent and professional across your website, social media channels, third party sites, offline communications and customer service. Your brand should bridge the online and offline experience at your hotel or property and align with your ideal customer.
Every brand needs assets starting with a logo, colour palette, tone of voice and fresh photography. A written Brand Strategy Document solidifies these elements and can be shared with staff so they understand how to sound as brand ambassadors. Yes, the front desk needs to know which printed letterhead to use, and your social media manager should have the latest photo shoot. Making sure your brand experience is seamless should be a priority. Consistency is trust, and trust will translate to bookings.
Setting up new or refreshed brand communications starts with market research and data to make sure your brand and message align your business with your target markets. It’s not always straightforward, which is why we often help hotels, motels and resorts get clear on their branding and equip them with ready-to-go branded communications like contracts, letterheads, email signatures and posters, and organising photography shoots.
Hotel restaurants can benefit from unique branding. Consider your restaurant audience – you need to attract not just hotel guests, but also locals. Locals want to visit a local restaurant, not a restaurant in a hotel. We developed the Angus & Co steakhouse brand to give hotel food outlets slick ready-to-go branding, along with operations guidelines and more.
Get your website up-to-date
It’s 2020 so we shouldn’t have to explain why a website is essential. This is, after all, your online real estate address. We will, however, point out that you should redesign or renovate your site every five years (at a minimum). Your website should reflect your brand with your most recent logo, colour palette, copy and photography displayed proudly and consistently across the site.
This is where people can book directly, so make it to work hard for you.
We’ve written another blog about optimising your website for bookings here.
SEO for hotels
Why should you care about SEO? Well, to become the top result on Google your site needs to be in top condition, primed and ready for Google bots (and other search engines like Bing or Yahoo) to crawl the HTML and decide your site is relevant and authoritative. There are dozens of ways to do this, but simply put – your website needs to perform, it needs to have relevant, helpful copy, and links from high ranking quality websites back to your hotel will help a lot.
Firstly, it’s easy to test your website performance using free tools like Google’s PageSpeed or GTmetrix. It’s a little harder to understand the tech language and fix the issues if you’re not an expert.
Secondly, adding a hotel blog with longer-form guides and destination content can help you increase your website’s SEO ranking and along with the search terms your website shows up for. We’ll touch on how to plan a content strategy further below,
Thirdly, there are two obvious ways to gain authority with quality backlinks. List your hotel or property on ATDW so it feeds through to various websites, contact your local or state tourism association to ask for a content feature or link back from their site, and mention you are available for media familiarisations. News websites are generally considered very authoritative.
SEM for hotels
The flip side of the coin is SEM. That’s Search Engine Marketing – and they are the ads you see at the top of Google search pages. These spots are often dominated by the big OTAs like Booking.com, Expedia and Trviago, and since it’s a pay-to-play game with the highest bidder winning it’s worth looking at more niche, lower volume terms as a smaller player.
If every single one of your hotel’s social media posts says “book a room” it will only take a few days to bore or alienate your audience and miss potential future bookings. Research shows it takes an average of 10 touch points to make a sale. And the goal of content marketing is to engage your ideal customers and keep them interested, get them invested in the brand and create a desire to act. This subtle sell is an art form to master. Brands need to create content (social posts, emails, blogs) that inspires, educates or entertains the audience. Ideally, your content will do all three.
Design content themes
To keep your brand content consistent, think of 3-5 topics or themes that you can create cool content around. Think about what makes your property unique and how you stand out. Relate the themes back to the hotel and use them to design an engaging social media calendar and blog content.
More often than not someone books a room because they want to visit the region your hotel, motel or resort is located in. Yes, your property comes second in the decision-making process, but there are a handful of ways to use the destination to your advantage. Think about what guests are doing while staying at your hotel. Are they dining out? Hiking? Gallery hopping? Road tripping? These are all content ideas you can use for social media posts, website blogs or emails.
These ideas could keep your blog content interesting and increase SEO keywords. Plus, sharing destination blogs on social media or in paid ads (as a cold lead) will send people to your website – where you want them for direct bookings. For all these reasons and more we created a destination marketing platform called SA Weekend Escapes. With lots of our hotel management clients located in South Australia, it’s proven to be an excellent marketing tool to drive interest, awareness and warm leads.
Social media marketing for hotels
Imagine this – you post on social media saying “book a room” with a link to your bookings page. It gets three likes. One is your hotel manager, another is your cleaner. The Facebook algorithm decides your content is irrelevant to the hundreds or thousands of people who “like” your page… Your page reach declines. You’re now shouting into an empty void.
Imagine this instead – you post a link to a destination blog, “11 things to do in the Barossa Valley”. It’s an attractive article to people in the dreaming phase, who click and land on your website or tag a friend in the comments. This where the magic starts. Enticing people with engaging, unsalesy content will increase your organic social media reach. Once they click you can track who lands on your site with a remarketing funnel and follow them online with paid ads.
Choose your social channels
Organic posts should stick to a formula of 80% cool content and 20% hard sales. This is why having content themes to cycle through and sharing customer photos can help when it comes to planning posts. It’s best to focus on the channels that work hardest for you, and not bite off more than you can chew (or afford to staff).
Join the conversation
Social media is a two-way street. It’s important to not just publish photos, links and videos, but also listen to your audience, gather data and respond to messages quickly. If someone messages your page, they expect a response and fast. If someone comments on a post, that is your opportunity to engage back and win brand loyalty. There are tools out there to help \ schedule social media content, learn the best times to post, track and reply to messages and comments, and gather audience data.
Working with user-generated content (UGC)
While your glossy hotel snaps win over bookings on your website, on social media people want a more authentic and real experience. Publishing guest-made content creates loyalty and desire. Always ask permission before reposting personal snaps, or create a brand hashtag so permission is implied. Paid social media tools like Later have handy functions where you can search, store and schedule UGC content found on your hotel hashtag or location.
Working with influencers
The benefit of partnering with influencers is your brand gets splashed across their social media, blog and platforms with organic-sounding content that looks and feels like them. When choosing influencers, make sure their audiences are both engaged and match your target markets. If your property receives a family drive audience from the nearest capital city, look for family lifestyle influencers located in the city. If you find the quality of UGC images on your hotel hashtag is poor, influencers create UGC-style imagery and can inspire copycat shots from future guests.
Paid advertising can be as simple as a single Facebook ads funnel through to a multi-platform online and offline seasonal campaign.
Social media advertising
It’s easy to get a Facebook ads funnel up and running. They are great for smaller budgets and funnily enough, your content marketing efforts are an asset here. A destination blog can be used to inspire action in ice-cold audiences. If they click, they move into the warm stage of your funnel, and eventually onto a deal or booking ad.
Multi-platform seasonal campaigns
Spring has sprung and your sales team wants to push multi-night stays for the quieter shoulder period. Start with your budget. Traditional advertising like magazines, TV or radio ads can be pricey, while digital has a lower entry point (plus you receive data). A multi-platform campaign needs to be on brand and be consistent. Think about your channels – social media (paid and organic), email database, website homepage, flyers – and the costs.
Always-on advertising or remarketing
Clicked on a website and found it following you around the web or on social media? This type of advertising can be set up and switched on so anyone who shows interest in your brand can be hit with a second or third or fourth touchpoint. Remember we said it takes an average of 10 to make a sale?
Partnerships with OTAs, DMOs
Your local or state tourism office is often paying to partner with OTAs and media companies, and it’s worth jumping on the bandwagon for low-cost or subsidised exposure.
If it wasn’t clear, selling hard 24/7 isn’t a solid strategy anymore. Guests past, present and future all want VIP treatment and to feel special or needed. Customer retention strategies can make them feel like they’re one in a million.
Email newsletters for hotels
Your hotel marketing database is primarily filled with warm booking leads. Consider a content marketing approach to your weekly or monthly newsletter to gradually increase open and click-through rates. Include destination blogs, new menu details, short property updates, guest photo of the month (with a prize) and exclusive discounts to the database. Give people a reason to open your emails that isn’t just to buy what you’re pushing.
On the flip side automation sequences seem complex, but once set up they streamline your business. It’s possible to create hundreds of sequences with different goals. For example, when someone books a room it triggers a booking confirmation email. A week before, they receive a reminder email with dining options. After check out, a thank you email with a star rating. If they choose 4-5 stars, it triggers an email asking for public reviews on third-party sites. If they pick 1-3 stars, it triggers an email asking for private feedback. The work is all in the beginning – and will save time, your reputation and win business in the long run.
Manage your reputation online
Hotels need to actively manage online reviews. Evidence suggests there is a direct correlation with your hotel’s reputation and its occupancy and daily rates. We like to use time-saving reputation management software – like Revinate– to pull reviews from various websites including Google, TripAdvisor and Booking.com into one place. This makes it easy to monitor guest feedback, reply in real-time and gather data.
Collect data and reflect
Above all, marketing in this day and age should be based on data. That means that collecting data or research before, during and after any marketing activity is essential. This includes checking your website statistics frequently to see where traffic is coming from and which links are receiving high volumes of traffic. Social media has great demographic statistics on your audience and you can learn from reflecting and reporting on the most popular content. Always measure, optimise and test. Then repeat. The digital marketing world is constantly shifting and trialling new ideas will keep you ahead of the competition.
So, marketing your hotel, motel, resort or property is a complex beast that calls for knowledge and common sense, creativity and data, and, of course, consistency to achieve results. If you need help making your hotel marketing work, just reach out – we have a team of experts ready to skyrocket your success.